How Much Should I Expect From A Car Accident Settlement in Colorado?
When we talk to clients about settlement amounts, we start by determining their damages. Damages can be economic (you receive a bill for a certain amount) or non-economic (you don’t receive a bill but still suffer a loss). In this article, we’ll discuss common damages and factors that may affect your settlement amount.
Once we’ve assigned a monetary value to all your damages, we’ll add them up so you can get an idea of what a reasonable settlement would look like. However, you may not receive the total amount in all situations. The main reason settlements are sometimes smaller than calculated is shared fault under Colorado’s modified comparative negligence statutes.
How Does Modified Comparative Negligence Work?
It’s easy to think of car accidents as being the fault of one driver, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, many car accidents are caused, to some extent, by both drivers. For instance, one driver might be speeding, but the other runs a red light. In this case, both drivers made mistakes that made an accident much more likely. The driver who ran the red light was wrong, but the speeding driver may have made the accident more severe due to their increased speed.
If this case went to court, a jury would assign a percentage of fault to each driver, and the party who was more than 50 percent at fault would pay damages to the party who was less responsible. For example, the jury might decide the driver who ran the red light was primarily responsible (80 percent), and the speeding driver was 20 percent at fault. The speeding driver would then be able to collect damages from the red light-running driver, but their percentage of fault (20 percent) would be deducted from their actual damages.
Another essential thing to understand about car accident cases is that many at-fault drivers think they were not at fault – and their insurance company often agrees. The reason is that the insurance company can deny a liability claim if the insured was not at fault. What frequently happens is that both drivers claim the other was at fault, and the insurance companies work out who pays for what.
So My Car Insurance Company Will Defend Me?
Not really. Your insurance company will probably back up your claims that you weren’t at fault so they can avoid paying anything to the other party. But they won’t necessarily fight to ensure you receive payment for all your damages, which the other driver’s insurance company may undervalue. If you leave things up to your insurance company, you may not get the full settlement you deserve. For this reason, we recommend consulting a Colorado car accident lawyer who can fight to get you the compensation you need to move on with your life.
How Do You Prove the Other Driver Was All or Mostly at At Fault?
Your first step should be calling a Colorado car accident attorney who is experienced in gathering evidence and proving fault in these cases. Our investigative team will review the police report from your accident and search for other evidence, such as witness statements, video from doorbells or security cameras, the black box data from both vehicles, and more. If there is a way to prove you had little or nothing to do with causing the accident, we’ll find it.
What is the Max Settlement for a Car Accident?
Colorado doesn’t limit settlements for economic damages like medical bills, property damage, or lost income, although you may need to document these costs – with copies of bills, paperwork showing you missed work, etc. However, the insurance company may fight you on some of your costs. For instance, they might argue that you don’t need surgery for your injuries when other treatments exist (although these other treatments may not have worked for you).
Another potential factor is the car insurance policy’s limit. In Colorado, drivers are required to carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person and $50,000 for all people injured or killed in the accident. The minimum requirement for property damage is $15,000. You can absolutely purchase more than these minimums, but not everyone does, and you might get in an accident caused by someone with the minimum insurance. If you are seriously injured, you might have, say, $80,000 in medical bills, but the other party’s insurance will only pay out $25,000. Even if there is significant evidence that the other driver was 100 percent at fault, the insurance company is not obligated to pay more than the policy limit. What can you do?
Your lawyer will work to find other solutions to get the balance of your damages paid, including the following:
- You can sue the at-fault driver. Technically the at-fault driver is responsible for your damages, although in most cases, that person’s insurance company actually pays your claim. However, if the insurance policy doesn’t cover all your damages, you can take the driver to court. The only problem with this option is that if the at-fault driver has few or no financial resources we can seize, collecting any damages you win might be difficult. In some cases, it isn’t worthwhile to pursue a claim against someone who won’t be able to pay.
- You can use your own insurance if you have the right add-ons. Earlier, we discussed required insurance coverage in Colorado. There are other kinds of car insurance that are not required but are usually offered to insurance clients. It’s also helpful to understand that required coverage is only for liability – in other words, it covers damage you cause to others. It does not cover your damages. But if you have MedPay coverage, this will pay for your medical bills in an accident, regardless of fault. Collision coverage will pay for property damage (generally car repairs), again, regardless of fault. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage might cover bills not paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance if you purchased a stacked policy. It’s also helpful if the at-fault driver had no insurance despite the legal requirements.
- You might be able to sue a third party. This is not always an option, but in some situations, a third party might have contributed to the accident. For example, if the accident happened because the other driver’s brakes failed, and the brakes are found to be defective, you might have a case against the brake manufacturer. Another example would be if your accident was caused by an intoxicated minor. In some circumstances, you might be able to sue a bar or liquor store that sold alcohol to the minor.
What About the Maximum Settlement for Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a non-economic damage, so it’s often hard to assign it a value. However, the only way to seek compensation through the civil court system is to assign a monetary value to any damages you suffer. Your lawyer will review your damages with you (including both physical pain and mental anguish) and help you determine an equitable amount.
Colorado’s Cap on Pain and Suffering Settlements
Colorado law limits how much compensation you can receive for pain and suffering in most situations. The cap changes every few years to account for inflation, but for the year 2023, the current cap is $642,180. In less common cases, a court may allow up to $1,284,370 if you can show “clear and convincing” evidence of your pain and suffering. Additionally, there is no cap on pain and suffering for cases where the plaintiff (the injured party) has suffered permanent disfigurement or disability due to their injuries.
Legal limits aside, there are other considerations. Most clients we see do not have pain and suffering damages over $642,180 – generally, we only see more significant amounts in cases where the plaintiff has had extremely severe injuries or has lost a loved one (wrongful death). Another issue is that $642,180 is above the limit of many insurance policies (which may have already been reached by economic damages). However, we will always work to get you the compensation you need through any possible avenue.
Get Help From a Colorado Car Accident Attorney Today
You don’t have to figure out what your damages are worth or fight the insurance company to get your expenses covered on your own. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a car accident, please contact the Olson Law Firm for a free case evaluation. We know how difficult it is to pick up the pieces after an accident, and we want to help in any way we can.
Attorney Sean Olson established the firm to help injured people tell their stories and seek compensation for their injuries. He believes in taking every case seriously and is always prepared to go to trial – which helps him settle most cases out of court. Call today at 720-410-6188 to learn your options for pursuing compensation after a car accident in Colorado.